Just when the Hamptons get fun for the summer, the work day of Walker Lourie ’15 grows longer as he tends to his million-plus charges. “You can be out there for 14 hours on a tough day, or you could do a 12-hour day on the water then have to go and shuck oysters at a private event,” says the co-founder of West Robins Oyster Co. “But the work has never been a problem for me. [There’s] that moment when you actually get to eat something you’ve spent all this time creating — and when other people eat it and give you positive feedback, like, ‘This is the best oyster I’ve ever had.’”
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Maybe they’re just being nice, Lourie concedes, but he thinks there’s a pearl of truth in the words. He is convinced his operation is nearing its goal of producing the best oyster in New York state. The business, located on 225 acres in Peconic Bay, put its first baby oysters in the water in 2016. It sells primarily to private events and local restaurants, but this summer will wholesale in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Walker champions the sustainability of the oyster as crop. It needs no food or fertilizer beyond what it extracts by filtering water, a process that also cleans the water, explains Lourie, who majored in environmental studies. “Part of my life’s mission is to leave the planet better than I found it. A lot of people say that, but I think I can actually attain that by farming oysters. Because if you’re doing it on the scale of millions, and each filters 30 to 50 gallons of water a day, that’s a huge footprint,” he says.